The role of home-school relationship in preventing school violence and early school leaving – report of the EPA conference 28/29 November 2014

FNAP-IP, our Romanian member hosted the last EPA conference of 2014 in Bucharest in the grand building of the national Parliament. The topics of the conference - school violence and early school leaving (ESL) – are both burning issues in the host country as well as other parts of Europe. Our speakers tried to answer the question how parental involvement help to decrease both problems and how to involve parents, especially those with disadvantaged backgrounds. The importance of the conference was highlighted by the fact that it was greeted by the Minister of Education – on Skype from Senegal -, the General Mayor of Bucharest and a high ranking official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. All keynote speakers of the first day offered workhops on the second day to make it possible for participants to share their thoughts and good practices.

The first keynote speaker of the conference, Zakia Akkouh from the European Wergeland Center (EWC) introduced the No Hate Speech campaign co-organised by EWG and the Council of Europe (CoE). Her powerful speech, accentuated by the fact that it was made by a young woman in a headscarf, concentrated on the internet, a powerful tool for young people to organise themselves, but also a means to organise hate and xenophobia. It means that the internet is a main source of human rights abuse. It is clear that censorship is not a solution to this problem, so EWC and CoE organised and educational campaign built on a network of national teams. While it is clear that you cannot protect your children from everything, so this campaign concentrates on empowerment, to make children change-agents and active citizens. She emphasised that no target of the campaign can be reached without the parents, although parents are often considered as parts of the problem and not the solution. In the workshop Zakia could collect a number of recommendations on how to involve and target parents in the next phase of the campaign. Her full speech and the recommendations can be read at this link.
Ciprian Fartusnic, Director of the Institute of Education Sciences gave a keynote on the influence of family factors on early school leaving. He presented the results of the ‘Education priority area’ UNICEF-funded project partly on parental involvement that involved 300 schools from Romania. In the schools that were part of the project an estimated 20% of the students were at risk of dropout. In Romania the ESL rate is 17% and 6% of primary school aged children are not in education. Those most endangered by ESL are from low socio-economic status families, minorities, disabled children and those living in rural parts of the country. In the projects they addressed the challenges of poverty, psychological barriers, school culture, lack of training and skills and the lack of organised parents. In the area of parental involvement the following challenges were identified and tackled: breaking the ice, opportunities to exchange views, online training and organising parent corners, extracurricular activities. His presentation can be downloaded from this link. He also made a summary of his workshop where participants shared their reflections, ideas and good practices.
Magda Balica, a Senior Researcher from the same Institute made a keynote on violence in the 21st century challenging the common mistake of thinking that violence at school is a recent development. She analysed the difference between aggression and violence, the first being natural, the second a result of a certain education. She put emphasis on the fact that the parties involved have very different views on the problem, parents and teachers tend to blame each other while often there is a lack of communication with children about the issue. While schools teach human history as a history of violence we expect children not to copy these role models for a successful life. One thing was clearly stated in this keynote, namely that exclusion from school is not a solution for violence. To be successful in finding solutions, including proactive and reactive measures alike, is to address the causes, not only the effects. The presentation can be downloaded from this link.
Nóra Ritók, the leader of Real Pearl Foundation gave a grim and thorough picture of extreme poverty and showed participants a holistic approach to families in order to support children and give them a hopeful future. The key message of the keynote was that however deprived families are you should never do anything about them without them. The approach of the foundation is trying to help families solve their most urgent problems like the lack of food, heating, electricity, clothes as well as trying to give parents basic skills that make it possible for them to get employment or try to establish small enterprises based on natural resources available (like making jam of wild berries) and their handicrafts. Community development and identity building are very important elements of their work. They are very successful in using arts and crafts for building self-confidence, making self-expression possible and to build other educational activities around that. You can read her keynote following this link.
Benoit Guerin presented the approach and website of EPIC, the European Platform for Investing in Children. His presentation focused on evidence-based practices in the field. Their activities are based on the Flagship initiative by former Commissioner Andor, Investing in Children: Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage. It became a Recommendation by the European Commission as part of the Social Investment Package. The presentation can be downloaded from here. After learning about how the system works all EPA members and our other readers are encouraged to send them information about good practices that could be shared on the platform.
Antti Reinsalo from EUCIS-LLL introduced the new flagship initiative on equity in education in his short contribution.

Marion Macleod, on behalf of Eurochild, gave the participants a strong message on why it is very important to protect the rights and the future of our children and why it can only be done by and with parents, to raise our voices for putting the social focus and the importance of active citizenship back high on the agenda of the EU.
At the end of the first day the results of the Goodyear survey on the role of parents in road safety of novice drivers was presented by Ovidiu Balan.

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